Wednesday, Mar 26 2014 04:18 PM

Canines vie for top dog

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Jennifer Outhet, of Idaho, prepares four of her clients' dogs for the Kern County Kennel Club annual all breed dog show at the Kern County Fairgrounds in 2012.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    It was a trim and a kiss for Beckham, Kim Estlund's English cocker spaniel during the Kern County Kennel Club's annual dog show with obedience and rally trials in 2012.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Jessica Wittman, trims her collie, Deck, before showtime at the fairgrounds during the 2012 Kern County Kennel Club all breed dog show.

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    Junior dog handler Kimberly Brandt, prepares Indie, her collie for competition at the fairgrounds during the Kern County Kennel Club's annual all breed dog show in 2012.

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BY STEFANI DIAS Californian assistant lifestyles editor sdias@bakersfield.com

The Kern County Kennel Club will be putting on the dog at the Kern County Fairgrounds this weekend for its annual Back to Back All Breed Dog Shows, Obedience and Rally Trials.

This year, about 800 dogs will compete from dozens of different breeds, which is a big draw for "dog people," according to club president Margie Haarsager.

Related Info

Kern County Kennel Club Back to Back All Breed Dog Shows, Obedience and Rally Trials

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; Bakersfield Obedience Training Club Obedience and Rally Match, 2 p.m. Friday

Where: Kern County Fairgrounds, 1142 S. P St.

Admission: $4; $3, seniors; $2, children 10-16; free for children under 10

Information: kerncountykennelclubinc.com or 397-7514 or 303-1920

"When we use the term 'dog people' generally we are talking about people who normally go to dog shows, whether they're obedience people or they're conformation," referring to the "beauty queen" showmanship.

"There are many, many breeds that people don't know exist. Breeds that are rare enough that there is only one entered. The Xoloitzcuintle, the official hairless dog of Mexico, we have one entered this year. We run the gamut from big to tiny."

And although dogs and handlers face the judges in the ring, there are more eyes on them during final show grooming.

"People they like seeing all the stuff that has to get done to get the dog ready."

In the days leading up to the show, owners prepare competitors with often breed-specific maintenance (Haarsager makes sure her bearded collies have the hair around their feet trimmed and nails clipped). After a bath the night before, dogs may have their whiskers cut or will be rubbed down with a non-greasy sheen (for smooth-coated breeds).

This last-minute ring prep is interesting to watch but, more importantly, it is crucial to getting the dogs in the right frame of mind, said Haarsager, who conducts show training.

"You make sure the dog is mentally ready to get in the ring. Have to get rid of their angst beforehand. With males (who are not neutered), you make sure you have his attention the whole time. They're always looking for the female around the corner.

"When I am training people, I say, 'Don't ever think that your dog isn't being looked at.'"

Each breed has an assigned time in the ring, but, with so many dogs over two days, the schedule is detailed. Haarsager advised people to check online (jbradshaw.com under "shows") or arrive early -- judging starts at 8 a.m. -- and check with volunteers at the information desk for a list of times.

Competition is in the air but attendees are encouraged to explore what even backyard dogs are capable of doing.

At the event, "we try to do things that you can do with your dog, whether it's the beauty queen part of it or formal obedience training or rally training."

The show also allows potential dog owners to ask questions of breeders.

"What we want people to do is talk to the breeders and find out the energy level, the lifestyle they enjoy."

In addition to energy level, personality and work ethic -- what purpose the breed was originally meant for -- will help you select a good canine match, Haarsager said.

Whether you're looking for a family dog (consider herding dogs that are pack-oriented) or want a canine with low-maintenance grooming (look at short-haired breeds), breeders are willing to share their expertise.

From show dogs to canine companions, mind-set is also important when making the big commitment.

"They can understand us to a certain point. We have to understand them more than they understand us, being able to think their way."

That animal-handler synchronicity is on display at the obedience and rally trials, which also run through the weekend.

If you want to get an early start on the dog watching, the Bakersfield Obedience Training Club will host an obedience and rally match at 2 p.m. Friday.

The match, which does not count for championship points, offers a chance for dogs to develop or improve their skills in a low-pressure environment.

"It takes practice. There's less angst."

Competitors include dogs that are returning to the circuit or are brand new to it.

"Dogs that are just starting out need some practice to hone their skills. ... We get a kick out of it, puppies having fun. We all kind of chuckle."

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